Twitter etiquette – how to use this social media tool rather than become one yourself.

07 Mar

Now before I even explain this blog post to people I feel a great need to remind my readers I’m an overly sarcastic cow and pretty much everything I say should be taken tongue in cheek. Yes, those who know me well even pause to dissect me greeting them with ‘hi, how are you?’ before responding. I’m indeed that bad.

Okay, so now we have the friendly warning out of the road, anyone who doesn’t get sarcasm who is continuing to read this does so at their own risk. I mean, not all of this post is sarcastic, far from it… but there are just going to be moments that some may read wrong without this initial warning.

What is this week’s post about? Well, if the title isn’t self-explanatory enough, it’s about Twitter and the dos and don’ts of how to interact on it. All these topics of etiquette come from my point of view and so may not be the globally recognised approach to Twittering… but hey. My blog, my rules. 😉

Think of it as a check list if you follow me on Twitter and wonder why I don’t follow you back. As, to me, Twitter is the part of the internet where strangers can still meet instantly and either become friends or not. Bad Twitter etiquette is like having bad breath… yes, you may be a victim of social media halitosis so let’s see if we can find you a cure… or at least a really strong breath mint.

We’ll start with the basics – your profile pic and blurb. I don’t talk to eggs and animated pics give me a headache. I’m not saying you need to display a picture of yourself in your profile. I know many (myself included) wished I would change my ugly mug to something nicer. However, if you go with the Twitter default egg or something that shimmers and moves and irritates – bad move. Then again I feel the same about overly pornographic, idiotic or even ‘fish face’ shots. Be yourself, well, as much of yourself as you can be without people seeing too much of you and then wishing it wasn’t wiggling at them every time you post.

As for the profile blurb, it’s good to start with at least having one. I don’t know why, but I have no interest in following someone who has nothing in their blurb. I liked to know people a little before adding their babble to my Twit stream. The blurb should also not be entirely made up of hashtags and web addresses. Some are okay, everything tagged and bagged? No. You don’t have to include your life story in the limited amount of characters provided… but something of use helps people get to know you better so they can decide whether you’re worth a follow. And, sadly, Twitter seems to be all about the followers. Me, I’m more into quality of followers over quantity and so may be biased when it comes to who I follow.

Don’t be something/ someone you’re not on Twitter. It’s okay to have a joke account or fan club on there… but don’t pretend to be someone else. Those poor celebrities types have a hard enough time being famous and being online without people adding to their woes and pretending to be them. And, to be honest, those I’ve seen pretending to be someone they’re not fail miserably and tend to come across as a douche. If you’re too afraid to be yourself, don’t use Twitter. I will, however, emphasise that joke accounts are acceptable. There are some awesome ones out there and I love their posts. I’m looking at you @ThatBucketWoman, @MrsStephenFry and @BridgetandJoan.

Some see Twitter as just free advertising space and will simply tweet about their book, product, service, business, etc. As I’m writing this the Monty Python song ‘Spam’ has started in my head. What can I say, but yes, you need to shake your assets when and where you can and it is indeed a free service to allow you to do this. I occasionally show off my book and ask people to buy it on Twitter. Note: occasionally. There are a lot of people who use Twitter to socially interact with others, not go shopping for a new house, toy, book, insurer and so on. I know this may come as a surprise to some, but using your Twitter account to just constantly tweet at people to buy whatever it is you’re selling is annoying and a good way to find yourself blocked and reported for being spam.

There are some exceptions to this rule. I mean, there are certain Twitter accounts where you expect this sort of behaviour as they are the Twitter account of an internationally recognised product. Whether it is a soft drink, chocolate, car, phone, whatever. Still, I find them annoying (especially when their tweets appear in my Twit stream as they paid to have them promoted) and so I do indeed block them too. I just don’t report the official sites as spam. Call me Ms Manners.

Other times this behaviour is accepted is when it is a book or film reviewer, a publishing house or set up specifically for a TV/ radio show or play. Most of these accounts plainly state what it is they are in their profile and so if you follow them you really should expect them to tweet about books, films and what not and not much else. I know common sense is a dying art but come on people, give it a go!

When to block and when to block and report as spam? Basically, if it’s an account I don’t want to see but will as they’ve paid Twitter to promote them – meaning shove their tweets into everyone’s Twit stream – I simply block them. As much as I feel that are spamming me, they’re technically not. So I just block them in the vain hope they won’t darken my door again.

Accounts that have next to no followers and a dicey looking profile blurb and pic that just seem to tweet ‘hey check this out’ and add a web address… These are spammers and trolls and should indeed be blocked and reported as spam. And I strongly advise everyone to do so. Don’t just ignore them and expect them to go away. The good team at Twitter need to be alerted to such idiots and can only know they’re there if enough people report them. Come on, now you’ve tried common sense let’s throw a bit of proactive behaviour in for good measure!

Oh, and never ever click on their web addresses. If they are indeed websites, they’re not worth visiting. But what is more likely going to happen it’s some nasty little malware link that allows them to hack your Twitter account and then use you to send the same spammy messages to others. And it’s just plain nasty when they do this to your followers via direct messages. If you’re not careful it will be your account that is blocked and reported as spam.

Just because someone has followed you on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you need to follow them back. I mean, some Twitter protocols dictate that the follow back is the done thing… quite frankly not for me. As mentioned, I use Twitter to interact with people and make friends… not get myself a many followers as possible. Strangely rare, I know. So if I don’t like the look of the account of a new follower, I won’t follow them. The majority of the reasons why I won’t follow them are listed in this blog.

Simple rule of thumb when wanting to follow someone (or follow back as the case may be) is this: Do they look interesting in their pic and blurb? Who follows them, anyone you know? What do they tweet? Do they actually interact with others on Twitter, or do they simply tweet ads, spam, quotes from others, etc. Does that interest you enough to want to follow them? What I’m trying to say is do they look like someone you want to receive tweets from… if yes, follow them. I’m not you’re mother and can’t stop you. 😉

The other side to the whole ‘follow back’ protocol is don’t expect people to follow you back simply because you followed them. If you’ve followed them as they’re a celebrity you like… seriously it rarely happens that they’re going to follow you back. Their Twit stream is crowded as it is. If they’re someone you find interesting and enjoy reading the tweets of… do they need to follow you back? Or is what you’re getting enough? If you want them to follow you back as you feel they’d enjoy what you have to say just as much… tweet them. It’s not hard to just comment or say hello. Sometimes they still won’t follow you back – fine. Your choice as to whether you keep following or unfollow. Just don’t have a dummy spit and send them an abusive tweet because they won’t follow you. You’ll look like a five year old.

One of the most important DON’TS of Twitter is don’t send people a direct message as soon as they follow you back asking them to buy, try, visit, join or follow anything. That will cause an immediate unfollow by me and many I know. That is a form of spam and is unforgivably rude. Especially for those who have it set up to happen automatically. Direct messages are private conversations between people who follow each other on Twitter. If you’re going to abuse it like that, you may find yourself reported as spam.

I don’t mind using direct messages and do use them a lot – with people I know and want to pass on a private piece of information too. Not to tell someone to buy my books, like my Facebook pages or go visit a website that will just blow their minds. Then again, I’m not a rude and callous idiot.

Can you tell I really dislike the misuse of direct messages?

Retweeting and favoriting something someone has tweeted. Rule of thumb on this one is if you like something someone has tweeted – favourite it. If you want to share it with your followers as you enjoyed it so much, retweet it. Quite honestly, if people didn’t want you to favourite or retweet their stuff… they shouldn’t go putting it on Twitter. Or, if they want it on Twitter they should secure their account so only their followers see it. Seriously… think before you tweet as strangers are out there reading it. My downside is it seems that only times I make a typo or grammatical error are the ones people retweet. I make it through whole days where I don’t stuff up the English language in my tweets… but if I’m going to make a boo boo, you can guarantee that will be the one that is shared. Sad, but true.

Now, there are some strong etiquette rules when it comes to when people retweet your tweets too. If they are sharing something you’ve said just as they liked it… you don’t need to thank them. But if they’re retweeting something you’re sharing like a traffic incident you want to give people a heads up on, or if you’re a writer and a review of your book is being retweeted – thank the retweeter. It’s manners and it’s good to show you appreciate them doing it.

Hashtags… man this one’s a doozy. Hashtags get their name from the fact you always start them with the hash (#) symbol. And then run the words on from there – #thisisahashtag. It looks better on Twitter, honest. You can pretty much hashtag anything you damned well like. I often just make them up as the fact that it is a hashtag is what makes it funny or important looking and it gets your followers attention. However! If you want to use hashtags ‘correctly’ there are some basic rules. The best way to explain these rules is to explain what a hashtag is. They are a form of metadata… don’t look cross eyed as I’ll explain them too.

So, metadata are kind of like bookmarks on the internet. You use them to ‘tag’ images, documents, a tweet as a way for people to search for it for later on. Meaning if someone wants to search on a specific subject, if it is tagged it is easier to find. Made sense, right?

On Twitter the hashtag is the most common form of metadata and it allows complete strangers to come together and talk (or at least feel like) they are talking together and sharing information with each other. Hashtags are most commonly used when discussing movies or TV shows, world events or even celebrities. Most common one I see from my UK friends on a Sunday is #TheArchers as they are all apparently glued to the radio.

I personally use them mostly when talking about local issues. I tag that I’m talking to people interested in #Adelaide and the #AdelHills (Adelaide Hills) and have indeed used these tags for weather and traffic warnings. It helps get information out to those interested in the same subjects. And using the right hashtags is a good way to get yourself retweeted – see my mention of typos.

Other common hashtags to those of a Writer’s bent are #AmWriting, #AmEditing, #AmBlogging, #AmProofing and the all-important #AMProcrastinating. I use these ones a lot.

Why use hashtags? Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. In the same way as you don’t have to use Twitter. They are just there to help you connect to people who may share similar interests. This, to me, is the greatest use of Twitter. I’ve ‘met’ some very interesting and like-minded people on it. I’ve caught up with real life friends and made new ones.

The biggest thing to remember with Twitter is the same for any sort of social interaction – it’s okay to have an opinion, but remember that it’s okay that others are allowed to have their own opinion too. And slagging off is just wrong. Oh, I whinge and bitch and complain about things that are frustrating and annoying me, but never at a particular person. You have a beef with someone, take it out with them privately or just walk away and let it go. Don’t make it a public scene.

As said at the beginning, this is just my opinion on some of the rules and etiquettes of Twitter. You may not agree with them all, you may feel I’ve gotten some of them wrong or missed some entirely. This blog post comes with a comments section if you feel so strongly about it too.

And yes, that is my very small view on Twitter after all and simply how I use it. I hope they were of some use and that I see you on there soon. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Writing


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